Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

This my my second attempt at Chicken Parmesan. I liked it so much the first time, I just had to try it again! This is a pretty simple dish and I think its going to become a regular in my rotation. Aleia's Italian bread crumbs work great for this, but if you can't find them, I think any gluten free breadcrumbs would work with a little Italian seasoning. Serve this with a salad or with gluten free pasta!


1 egg
1/2 cup of milk

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I actually had 5 thin ones)
1 jar of tomato sauce (I like Classico Tomato Basil)
1 package of Mozzarella cheese 
Parmesan cheese
Aleia's GF Italian bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together egg and milk in one bowl and empty bread crumbs into another bowl. Dip chicken breasts into egg mixture and then coat with bread crumbs. Brown chicken on both sides in a frying pan with a little olive oil. Arrange chicken in a baking dish and cover with half of the cheese slices, entire jar of spaghetti sauce, a handful of Parmesan cheese and then layer on the remainder of the Mozzarella cheese slices. Bake for 25 min or until bubbly. 


Ta-da! Just a gooey mess of cheese and sauce!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Weekend in Review

This weekend was a beautiful and sunny (read: HOT!!) one in the DC area! I finally got the chance to lay out by the pool and soak up some sun with Jess and her family. We enjoyed several hours poolside before heading across the street to Dulles Town Center for lunch at Vapiano. Jess called ahead to check for gluten free options and they had a few salads to recommend. The four of us sat down to watch the soccer game and grabbed some cocktails. I stuck with wine (a light and fruity Riesling) because I wasn't sure about the gluten free status of the fancy martinis, but doesn't this Vapiano Martini with Gummi Bears look amazing?

Ever since the wonderful new caterers at work (more on that later) brought me their new Watermelon Caprese Salad, I have been obsessed. Caprese Salad is my new warm weather favorite food. When I saw this on the menu, it wasn't a hard decision.

This restaurant is nice in that you can watch them make everything right in front of you. They custom create every single order and you are welcome to ask questions and modify any ingredients. I asked for the Caprese Salad, which on the menu consists of, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil. The woman making my food didn't know what gluten was, but she was very helpful with telling me everything that was going on to my plate. She pulled out a huge ball of fresh mozzarella, added basil leaves and split tomatoes and then asked if I would like balsamic vinegar. YES.  Onions? YES. Then as she was drizzling olive oil over my dish, I asked if it would be possible to get grilled chicken with that. She seemed excited to make it for me and asked if I wanted fresh garlic. YES. She proceeded to grill the chicken on a small grill right next to her where I could continue to watch.The dish looked so pretty when she handed it over to me.

All in all a wonderful experience in Virginia and a big thanks to Jess' mom for use of her pool and for the lovely gluten free lunch!

Sunday morning I slept in (as long as the Princess would let me before she decided it was time for her breakfast) and took a long shower before getting a call from a friend (the fabulous Elise) to hit up our favorite Sunday brunch spot. You will hear many raves out of me about this little gluten free cafe in Bethesda, MD. Lilit is absolutely the best gluten free eats that I have experienced to date. It's even more amazing because my "normal" friends love it as well! This cafe is a beer and wine shop/deli. They are incredibly cautious of food allergies and have an extensive gluten free menu, including a selection of gluten free beers.

I believe, every single week we have gotten the hummus platter. I haven't tried all of the appetizers, but the ones I have sampled have been great. Their gluten free bread is soft and tastes like the real thing. The baguettes that can be made into sandwiches and come with several starter dishes are toasted and crunchy on the outside, yet soft and chewy on the inside. I have yet to be disappointed with a dish at Lilit.

Hummus Platter

I would like to reiterate my obsession with the Caprese Salad as of late. Obviously, my lunch was not a difficult decision. The hard part was trying to decide if I should take half of this sandwich home or eat it all there. I chose the later. 

Caprese Sandwich 

This sandwich is also available with turkey and on the plain sandwich bread. There are so many choices at Lilit, I HAVE to keep coming back so I can try everything. After I finish lunch, there is always the dessert choices. Lilit has plenty of gluten free options, including some beautiful gluten free cupcakes in several flavors (I love the lemon) and some amazing gelato in a variety of flavors. In the past I have been a fan of the toasted almond and peanut butter. Today, I opted for something light with a small coconut scoop. 

 I don't think my picture is blurry...I think my gelato was melting! 

Summer weekends with friends, and nothing at all to be missed out on! I filled in the blanks this weekend with some crisp chopped salads at home and quick corn tortilla and cheese roll-ups. Looking forward to some new recipes this week and another amazing adventure next weekend when I head to the beach for 4th of July. Stay tuned for more awesome gluten free meals! 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Product Time!!

I get so excited when a new product shows up on my supermarket shelves. That doesn't necessarily mean I LIKE all of the new products available, but it does show that more and more people are aware of the need for gluten free foods and are making an attempt to create some kind of variety. Now, I started this blog with the intentions of putting more effort into my food and spending more time in the kitchen making meals for myself, however, life does get in the way sometimes and its nice to have more convenient options. 

I scooped Mrs. Leeper's Creamy Tuna off the shelf because it was reminiscent of that old pantry staple, Hamburger Helper. If you would have asked me five years ago if I liked Hamburger Helper, I wouldn't exactly have been jumping for joy, but I did like the fact that in 15-20 minutes I could have a decent all-in-one-pan hot meal that didn't come from the freezer. There is ALWAYS a can of tuna in my pantry and this would be great for those nights when I wanted to put in a little more effort than bagged salad, but didn't quite feel like making something from scratch or shopping for ingredients. 

Tonight was the night to give it a try. It has been a long week of allergies, exhaustion, dragging work days and endless leftovers. This just might carry me over that Thursday slump and into the weekend. I was definitely skeptical at first. I try not to put too much faith into gluten free breads, pastas or pre-packaged foods, for they are often a disappointment. I had also never had corn noodles before and was a little wary of how they would taste.

The way this is cooked is much like a box of Hamburger Helper. Add milk, water, butter and a packet of spices, stir in noodles, boil and then simmer until done. I was pleasantly surprised that it actually looked like Hamburger Helper as well, although the noodles were a little orange at first. I let it set and scooped out a bowlful of casserole goodness (the box says five servings, but I think its more like three). 

This really surprised me in the taste department. The noodles had a great texture and I could easily imagine serving this up to any of my friends that didn't eat gluten free (if I were to ever have the type of dinner gathering that required food from a box). The sauce was creamy and rich and it didn't leave a strange after-taste in my mouth like I have experienced before. For a little over $5.00 a box, this was a pretty good deal, as leftovers will carry me another night or two. I will be adding Mrs. Leeper's to the approved brands in rotation when I just don't have the energy to play with new recipes. 

Now if only the rest of my life were this easy!! 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

In honor of Father's Day, I thought I should make something that reminded me of my dad. It's safe to say that breakfast is my dad's favorite meal of the day and some of his favorite foods to cook. I still love going to visit and waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking. Some times it wouldn't need to be morning at all, we would just have scrambled eggs and bacon for dinner.

I used my Better Batter flour to make biscuits. Just 2 3/4 cups of Better Batter and 3/4 cup milk. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and brush with butter.

I use Oscar Meyer center cut bacon and Jone's All Natural sausage patties. The biscuits are drizzled with honey. A wonderful dinner to celebrate my dad even if we can't spend it together. 

I love you dad!! Happy Father's Day!

Food About Town

One of the most difficult things about being gluten-free is trying to fit in when eating with others. Special occasions, holidays and gatherings can all prove to be rather challenging. Luckily, I live in a great area where there is a high awareness of food allergies and Celiac Disease, but I know everyone doesn't have that advantage. The most important thing is communication. Don't be afraid to call restaurants ahead of time, ask questions and make sure people take proper precautions when handling your food. I used to be shy about this, but have learned to be assertive so I can enjoy going out with my friends. It's also a good idea to educate the public so more gluten-free options can become available in the future.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Rachel & Mike's wedding and had a fabulous time. About a week ago, I called the venue where the reception was going to be held and talked to the caterers. I asked them if it would be possible to make something gluten free so I could eat at the wedding. The manager was incredibly helpful, and even though he wasn't sure exactly what I could and could not eat, he did have a friend that had Celiac and talked to him about my meal. He called me several times and told me that he would make a plate separate from the buffet and if I asked for him, he would bring it to my table. There was also plenty of options for appetizers, as a lot of it was naturally gluten free!

fruit and cheese for snacking

grilled chicken, roast beef, green beans, and roasted potatoes

Luckily, I also have some really great friends that don't mind going out of their way to make me something gluten-free. Most of them have learned a lot about what I can have and always try to make sure there is something for me if we go out or get together for parties. Today, Jess came over and made me a delicious gluten free meal to help me recover from my wedding hangover!

Jess adds chopped bell pepper and McCormick's hamburger seasoning to ground turkey and makes burgers topped with cheddar cheese, avocado, more bell pepper, lettuce and tomato. They were awesome with a little mustard!

There is no reason to limit your activities just because you're gluten free. With a little planning, its easy to fit in and fill up on plenty of fantastic foods. Rarely do I feel like I'm left out of something because of gluten. It's all about taking charge of your life and making the best of every situation.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Panera's Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad

Keeping with the summer theme, I decided to try and remake one of my favorite summer salads from my pre-Celiac days. Never before had I enjoyed the fruit/salad combination, but there is something amazing about this salad and the combination of flavors. Whenever this was in season, I would run out to Panera for lunch as often as possible to grab one before it was gone again. Panera's website has the ingredients for the salad and I found a copy cat recipe online for the poppy seed dressing, although I changed it quite a bit to fit my tastes. The one thing I disliked about the real Panera salad was the artificial sweeter taste to the dressing. I used more of the real stuff in mine. The occasional Splenda in my green tea is ok, but for the most part I try to stick with the real thing.

For the dressing, I just used what I had in my house. I ended up using Miracle Whip instead of regular mayo, but I definitely recommend the mayo. You could really taste the difference. And lucky me...I even had poppy seeds leftover from when I made lemon poppy seed muffins a few weeks ago!

1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup sugar (it was really a little more than that)
1/8 cup white vinegar
1 TBS poppy seeds

chopped Romain lettuce
grilled chicken breast
mandarin oranges
pineapple bits

Just mix up the dressing, plate the salad and drizzle the dressing over it.

This really hit the spot. I love a nice clean, crisp salad for hot days. I can't wait to have it again! I just saved my dressing in a capped bottle and put all my fruit in baggies so I can easily make this again for lunch in the next week or so.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Shortcake

When June rolls around, I tend to get nostalgic. I think back on growing up in Texas...especially the summers (which was nine months out of the year anyway, right?), and can't help but think of the food. One reason I enjoy cooking is the memories it brings back. There is nothing like the taste, smell and texture to snap you back to a different time. 

As a kid, I remember always having fresh fruit in the house. Apples, pears and persimmons that grew on our trees, ice cold watermelon, and especially the strawberries. My mom would cut them up (I would try to eat them as fast as she could cut), sprinkle sugar on them and let them soak for a few hours so we could spoon them over yellow sponge cakes with whipped cream.

Well, gone are the days of yellow sponge cakes, but I knew I wanted to have some old fashioned strawberry shortcake to celebrate summer and the beginnings of my new blog. So I set about my research and went about creating new memories in my own kitchen. I hit up Whole Foods and gathered the good stuff. I don't really slack with ingredients in my cooking anymore. If you've already tasted any gluten free food, you know it can taste like something is missing or just not...right. So I always spring for the good stuff so I really enjoy the food I CAN eat.

Now, I have to admit, the first time I made this it did not work for me. I combined several recipes and hoped for the best, but it turned out flat and burnt. I think there's a saying, "if at first you don't succeed, throw things and cuss really loud. Then take a deep breath and call your mom. She will tell you to try again". So that is what I did, and second time around it turned out really great! The only thing I would do differently next time (and there should definitely be a next time!) is put the batter into a round cake pan instead of trying to make individual cakes. I think it would look nicer that way.


2 quart Strawberries
about 1/4 cup sugar
whipped topping

Shortcake Ingredients:
2 cups of Better Batter Flour (or other cup for cup gluten-free flour replacement)
4 TBS sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sweet cream butter
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk 

Cut strawberries and coat with sugar, stir until sugar is melted and place in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter with a fork until the mixture is crumbly, like so:

Add the wet ingredients all together and stir just until everything is combined. Don't over mix. I wanted individual shortcakes, so I made little mounds on a greased cookie sheet. Like I said, next time I would just use a cake pan because they did flatten out anyway.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown. Let these cool for a few minutes before assembling. To build your dessert, just layer shortcake, strawberry mixture, whipped cream, more shortcake, more strawberries and more whipped cream.

TA-DA!! I'm glad I didn't give up after the first time, because it turned out great and tasted wonderful! I couldn't eat it all, but I sure did try! Here is the aftermath:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Who are YOU?" said the caterpillar

Who am I? Well, I am not a chef or a baker, and I am most certainly not a doctor. I’m just a girl, taking on the gluten-free world who thought there should be a place to record all of these trials and tribulations with food. There is something comical that happens to every day life after such a dietary restriction.

Oh. I can’t eat gluten? What the frick is gluten anyway? In short, gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It is found in breads, sauces, cereals, many processed foods and other creepy places like in my chocolate and ice cream. Why would anyone put wheat in my precious chocolate bar?? It can hide in almost anything under many different names and can be difficult to avoid.

Celiac Disease (and gluten intolerance) happens, and it’s becoming more and more prevalent.  About 1% of the population is diagnosed with Celiac Disease and even more are self-diagnosed or gluten intolerant for one reason or another. I was diagnosed in 2008 after a long battle with doctors, hospitals, and myself. I loathed food. No one knew what was wrong, but every single time I ate, I got sick. I had arthritis, chronic infections, dark circles under my eyes, a non-functioning digestive tract, and absolutely ZERO energy. Any time that was not spent in the doctor’s office or hospital, was spent in bed. Finally, I went to the doctor one more time. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t work. All of the dumb blonde jokes just weren’t that funny anymore because I truly could not remember where I parked my car or why I had walked into a room.  My doctor said “whatever it is, it has affected your brain, and it’s only going to get worse”. That was incredibly scary. At that same visit, as he handed me my paperwork for the lab, he suggested I stop eating gluten. I wasn’t really sure how to do that, but at this point, I would try anything.

That night I made chicken and rice for dinner and I didn’t get sick. I tested positive for Celiac and never looked back. Over the next few months, the transformation was amazing! I even threw away my cabinet full of medication that previously had been necessary to function on a daily basis. I bought gluten free cookbooks, did research on the internet and asked around for advice. This is it?? This whole time I was sick, all I had to do was stop eating gluten?? That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Now is the time to go a step further. I wanted to take on a project. I wanted more out of my meals. It has become so easy to fall back on potato chips and string cheese, and there is so much more out there. I hope with this blog, I will get more ideas, experiment often, and educate the masses (or at least my friends and family). I am, by no means, a professional, but I am determined to conquer the (gluten free) world one recipe at a time!